The United State is just finally starting to realize its potential to become an offshore wind powerhouse. It started with the completion of the Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island in 2016, which is projected to produce enough electricity to power 17,000 homes. Not only is Block Island creating renewable energy that won’t ever run out, but the project itself created over 300 jobs in Rhode Island alone, thanks in large part to a Project Labor Agreement. For the local unionized workers in ten different Building Trades locals and 30 unionized contractors and subcontractors, this project meant food on the table and money in their pockets.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, if we used even 1 percent of the nation’s technical potential offshore wind capacity, it could power nearly 6.5 million homes. We have the technology to harness wind power off the coasts of over half of our states, and the industry is expanding both internationally and domestically at a rapid rate. But, we need to have a workforce ready to undertake the projects.
Congress has taken note. A bill introduced by Reps. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Bill Keating (D-MA), and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) will ensure that workers have access to the skills training they need to take advantage of this emerging industry. The Offshore Wind Jobs and Opportunity Act is an important step in reaching our offshore wind potential. We need workers who understand how to build these giant turbines miles out from shore.
OUR UNTAPPED POTENTIAL
Right now, even larger projects are in development in states like Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey. These projects mean good jobs, as the building and operation of these wind farms will require a new workforce with new skill sets. These projects provide the jobs of the future that rely heavily on advanced manufacturing and skilled labor for construction, installation, operations, and maintenance. And, training workers with the skills they need for these jobs of the future must be a priority.
In New York State, which has some of the most energy-demanding cities in the country, offshore wind generation has the potential to provide up to 39,000 megawatts of clean power for the entire state, which is enough to power 15 million homes. It will also power the creation of good jobs.
To aid in the effort to get offshore wind projects underway in the Empire State, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority was granted $18.5 million in federal funds to research advancement in offshore wind technology. New York is also considering an offshore wind-related assembly hub in Brooklyn, which promises hundreds of jobs and $80 million in economic activity.
Last week, Connecticut’s Department of Energy & Environmental Protection, along with Governor Malloy, announced that the state has selected over 250 megawatts of clean and renewable energy projects, including the state’s first offshore wind procurement, which will produce 200 megawatts alone. The project is expected to lead to the creation of over 1,400 new jobs. And just last month, Rhode Island announced a partnership with Deepwater Wind to construct a new offshore wind project, with expected gains of at least 800 jobs.
TRAINING FOR THE JOBS OF THE FUTURE
As states like Massachusetts and Rhode Island lead the way and demonstrate the job-creating capacities of offshore wind, more and more states are likely to follow suit. Estimates put job creation potential off the Atlantic coast alone at between 133,000 and 212,000 per year in the United States. We will have a growing need for a qualified workforce.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) cites that the Atlantic states could create $200 billion in new economic activity, as well as over 43,000 high-paying, permanent jobs, just by developing a fraction of the offshore wind energy potential (54 gigawatts of a potential 1,283 gigawatts).
The Offshore Wind Jobs and Opportunity Act would create a job training grant program aimed at developing or improving educational and career training programs to provide individuals with the skills needed in the offshore wind industry. The program will provide funding for colleges and universities, state and local governments, unions, and nonprofits to create educational courses, health and safety programs, and internships that would aid in the development of this new workforce.
The Offshore Wind Jobs and Opportunity Act will play a significant role in providing the skills needed for workers to break into this growing field. Passing this bill through Congress is vital to having a workforce ready for the challenge of utilizing our offshore wind potential.
AN OFFSHORE WIND POWERHOUSE
Offshore wind holds great potential for creating quality, family-sustaining jobs while producing clean, renewable energy. As more wind farms spring up off America’s coasts, demand for the highly skilled workers needed to complete these innovative projects will grow as well.
We need our workers to be ready for the opportunity.